Wheat vs Cassava: The Soludo solution

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By Simon Njoku

Globally, the price of wheat is on the rise. This is attributed to the ongoing war in Eastern Europe between Russia and her neighbour Ukraine.

Wheat flour is used in making bread and other bakery products. In Nigeria, bread is a major breakfast staple food. Bakers nationwide are already lamenting the effect of rising prices of wheat flour on their operations. Anambra bakers have already taken steps to pass the additional costs to consumers.

Bread sizes are fast shrinking with their prices also increasing. Same goes for prices of other confectioneries.

Under normal circumstances, the prices of wheat and wheat flour should not cause any panic to the Nigerian baker. This is because the country boasts of ready alternative to wheat and wheat flour for bread making.

Talk of Cassava and Cassava flour. Studies have shown that 100% Cassava flour can be used to produce bread and other bakery products. It is further highlighted that the taste of bread produced with 100% Cassava flour is not different from that produced with 100% wheat flour.

Now, why does the Federal Government policy require Nigerian bakers to add just 5 – 10% Cassava flour to wheat flour in bakery products? Whose interest does that policy serve?

Currently, the African Development Bank and the African Development Fund (ADfB) are preparing $1 billion investment on wheat cultivation in Africa to stem its rising price. What becomes of our Cassava?

Very soon, Nigerian investors will start scrambling for land for wheat farming at the expense of Cassava.

Anambra State and indeed the entire South Eastern and Western regions as well as the Middle Belt have vast arable lands for Cassava production. This is the time to embark on massive Cassava farming. Many jobless youths/school leavers should be empowered to venture into this area of activity to ensure steady supply of raw materials to Cassava flour producing companies.

The existing policy on Cassava flour only ensures that wheat farmers in Eastern Europe and others are guaranteed steady income from their wheat exports to Nigeria.

Consequently, many Nigerian youths are made jobless due to lack of attention to Cassava production. It should be noted that no aspect of the Cassava tuber is a waste. It is not only processed into Cassava flour but also as edible and industrial starch, fufu, garri, abacha as well as ethanol.

The economic value of Cassava is enormous.

The task before Anambra’s Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the first of the post 2023 new generation Nigerian governors/leaders, is to liaise with like-minded, visionary and enterprising governors to review the Cassava flour/wheat flour policy with a view to promoting Cassava as a premier national agricultural product, the same way wheat is promoted by Europe.

Again, Prof. Soludo and his team can set up an investigative panel to verify the claims made above on 100% Cassava flour use in bread making.

The panel should comprise food technologists, microbiologists, nutritionists, officials of Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Bakers Association of Nigeria (BAN),  Cassava Processors Association of Nigeria (CPAN) among others.

Soludo and his team should also use their good offices to persuade the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria to channel more funds into cassava production in view of its huge beneficial impact on the economy in terms of employment generation, food security and conservation of huge foreign exchange expended on wheat/wheat flour importation.

Similarly, the AfDB could also be approached to extend its planned investment on wheat production in Africa to Cassava farming.

But, charity, they say, begins at home. Governor Soludo can start by turning the huge army of the unemployed in the state into a large infantry of proud Cassava growers empowered with cash and equipment to redefine the Anambra State economy.

 

.Njoku, a journalist, writes from Awka, Anambra State

+234 708 157 1975

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